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Hello everyone,
Autumn is full of top level events and so I had more than enough high-quality material, including some interesting novelties and a wide spectrum of openings.

Download PGN of December '11 1 e4 e5 games

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The Breyer Variation [C95]

The game Vallejo Pons, F - Harikrishna, P, TCh-ESP CECLUB Div Honor 2011, featured a rare, but interesting line against the Breyer which was highly popular in the middle of the 20th century:

In this well-known position Vallejo played 11.c4!?, instead of the main line 11.Nbd2, and after the rare 11...b4 introduced the good novelty 12.a3. In general, a curious game, in which Black never managed to solve his opening problems.

24...Ne8 looks like an improvement upon Black's play, but I'm expecting to see more practical tests of this well-forgotten line, which is starting to gain popularity.

Closed Spanish [C84]

Karjakin, S - Aronian, L, 6th Tal Memorial 2011, featured another Anti-Marshall set-up.

In the diagram position, which was recently tested in Carlsen, M - Aronian, L, Black deviated from his own game and introduced the interesting novelty 12...Bc5, which led to an interesting fighting draw. The position which ensued from the opening is full of nuances, even though it may look drawish, and even these top GMs committed mistakes. Aronian's 12...Bc5 definitely requires more practical tests.

Berlin Defence [C67]

Ivanchuk, V - Aronian, L, 6th Tal Memorial 2011, saw a novelty in a well-known Berlin endgame:

In the above position Aronian came with a new idea, 11...Bd7 instead of the 11...Be7 which was played in the majority of games. A rare case of Ivanchuk being fully outplayed - the "Berlin wall" remains a serious obstacle for Ruy Lopez fans.

Anti-Berlin with 4.d3 [C65]

Carlsen, M - Howell, D, 3rd London Chess Classic 2011, tested the 6...Re8 line, which is gaining popularity:

Carslen met this with the aggressive 7.Bg5 and after 7...h6 8.Bh4 Howell introduced the novelty 8...Bf8, which Carlsen met with 9.Nbd2 and 10.d4 which set Black some practical problems. A great positional achievement from the World's number one player! Black is still to find an improvement and so the ball is in Black's court.

Scotch with 4...Bb4+ [C45]

In the game Howell, D - McShane, L, 3rd London Chess Classic 2011, Black tried to surprise his opponent with the relatively rare 4...Bb4+ system.

In the diagram position given above Black introduced the novelty 12...axb4, but after 13.Nxb6 cxb6 14.cxb4 White obtained a slight advantage. Despite White's loss, the opening line with 10.b4 promises a slight edge.

Four Knights [C48]

The game Short, N - Kramnik, V, 3rd London Chess Classic 2011, became a classic immediately after its completion. White opened the game with a drawish line, 5.Nxd4 exd4 6.e5, and soon the players reached the diagram position:

Here Short introduced a logical novelty, 11.Qf3, but soon started to err. First he tried to trap the poisonous rook with 13.Be7?!, then came 15.Ba4?! and finally 16.b4 led to a difficult position with a misplaced bishop. The final diagram explains everything without words:

A classical example of the exploitation of a "caged" piece. Nevertheless, the evaluation of the line with 5.Nxd4 remains drawish.

Giuoco Piano with 5.d3 [C54]

Carlsen, M - Nakamura, H, 3rd London Chess Classic 2011, featured the classical line of the Giuoco Piano:

In this position, which is typical for the entire system, Nakamura introduced the new move 12...Ne7. White applied some pressure, but Black was up to the task for a long time before he slipped with 29...Rfb8. Carlsen then played a great positional exchange sacrifice, which forced Black to defend an unpleasant position, eventually Black went wrong and it was over. A great win from Magnus Carlsen! He showed that a seemingly equal position hides a lot of resources. Nevertheless, Black should be able to equalize with accurate play, thus Ivanchuk's 12...Rfe8 is safer than 12...Ne7.

Giuoco Piano with 5.d4 [C54]

In the game Vallejo Pons, F - Ponomariov, R, TCh-ESP CECLUB Div Honor 2011, instead of 7.Bb5 the Spaniard tried to surprise his opponent with the very rare old 7.Be2 line.

In the above diagram position Black played 8...Bb4+, which has never been seen at the GM level, instead of 8...Bb6. Black equalized easily and so White sacrificed a pawn in order to set some problems, but in fact had to play accurately to maintain the balance. However, he failed to do that and eventually lost.

White's opening idea,7.Be2, hardly offers any advantage.


See you next month, Victor.

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